94. Telegram From the Embassy in the Federal Republic of Germany to the Department of State1

21058. Subject: Consultations With Allies on Chemical Weapons (CW) Negotiations. Refs: (A) State 285427,2 (B) State 273489.3

1. Summary. Principal topics in quadrilateral (US, UK, FRG, France) consultations on November 13 were size of Soviet chemical weapons stockpile and plans of FRG and UK to invite government experts for confidence-building visits to organophosphorus chemical plants. FRG and UK agreed with US [3 lines not declassified] End summary.

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2. Quadrilateral consultations (US, UK, FRG, France) on chemical weapons negotiations were held Monday, November 13, 1978 in Bonn. Salient points in discussion are summarized paras 3–12. Delegation lists given para 13.

3. US presentation. US reps began consultations by presenting views contained Ref. A on estimating Soviet chemical weapons stockpile and on judging eventual Soviet stockpile declaration. Principal conclusion was that we may have difficulty in judging the accuracy of the overall quantity declared by the Soviets, but that it may be possible to make a rough judgment about whether the quantity appears “unreasonable” or not.

4. Allied reactions. Burns (UK Del. Head) responded that a rough judgment was really the objective. [8 lines not declassified] He pointed out that this should be seen in a proper perspective. Similar problems would be encountered in trying to estimate Soviet stocks of other types of munitions. Col. Christen (FRG) responded that the FRG had come to the same conclusion as the US and UK. There was no detailed discussion of information presented by US reps.

5. Continuation of intelligence efforts. Burns (UK) suggested that, rather than launch a special NATO study (an idea advocated earlier this year by the FRG), the four countries should continue their own separate efforts or divide up the task (another FRG suggestion) and periodically exchange views. Christen (FRG) promised that the FRG would provide any new information to the others and asked that they do the same.

6. Soviet CW program. Burns (UK) asked if the Soviets had shown the same restraint as the US in pursuing a chemical weapons program during the bilateral negotiations. [3 lines not declassified]

7. Convertibility of commercial chemical facilities. Zeil (FRG) raised question about possibility that Soviets could use insecticide plants for nerve agent production. Reid (UK) replied that conversion would be difficult unless the plant had been specifically designed with that possibility in mind. He said that in addition to plants producing highly toxic insecticides, chemical plants employing chemical processes similar to those used in nerve agent production might also be convertible. US experts said US was still studying convertibility question but that prior planning appeared to be necessary.

8. China. Burns (UK) asked if Soviet relations with the PRC might be one reason for Soviet reticence in the bilateral negotiations. He asked if Soviets had made Chinese participation a condition for entry into force of the convention and if the US had had any discussions with the PRC. Burns mentioned that before the UK tabled its draft CW convention in 1976, Chinese comments had been sought, but none had been forthcoming. Akalovsky (US) responded that although the Soviets had [Page 206]not made Chinese ratification an explicit condition for entry into force, they had strongly implied it. He said he was not aware of any USPRC discussions on CW questions.

9. US CW program. In response to questions from UK reps, Leonard (US) said principal problem with US stocks was not deterioration, but rather obsolescence of munitions, which cannot be arrested. He noted that no decision had yet been taken on the DOD L budget request for funds to construct a binary Chemical Weapons production facility.

10. Confidence-building visits. Following up on FRG proposal at the UN special session on disarmament, Von Arz (FRG) provided Dels with draft letter4 to the UN Secretary General inviting UN members to send experts to a workshop on verification of ban on manufacture of Chemical Weapons. He said workshop would involve visits to four chemical plants and a round-table discussion. Tentative workshop dates are March 14–16, 1979. Burns added that UK was considering possible invitation in the committee on disarmament for experts to visit the former UK nerve agent pilot plant at Nancekuke, Cornwall. (This facility is now being demolished.) He said trip could include visit to a commercial organophosphorous chemical plant and a display of military chemical defensive equipment. Burns said UK visits might follow immediately after FRG workshop. In response to FRG and UK requests for US reaction on timing of visits, Akalovsky said on personal basis that mid-March, 1979 would not appear to affect the USUSSR negotiations adversely. He said US would provide official reaction as soon as possible.

11. Committee on Disarmament (CD). Burns (UK) asked what can be done in the CD on Chemical Weapons. He noted interest of majority of CD members in having a meaningful role in negotiation of a CW convention. Burns suggested that CD might first discuss technical methods for destruction of CW stocks and then take up possibility of destruction of such stocks at an international facility. Akalovsky (US) responded that General US view was that for now it would be best to avoid introducing controversial points into the CD. Effort in the CD to work out some part of a CW convention in isolation from the rest would not be productive. He added that the concept of an international destruction facility was interesting and would be given consideration.

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12. French views. French rep (Masset) asked several questions to clarify US views but did not participate actively in discussions.

[Omitted here is the list of participants.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780468–0531. Confidential; Priority. Sent for information to USUN, London, Paris, and USNATO.
  2. See Document 93.
  3. Telegram 273489 to Bonn, October 27, provides the list of U.S. participants in the quadrilateral discussions and discusses logistical associated with the discussions. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number])
  4. The draft letter is recorded in telegram 21800 from Bonn, November 28. The West German Government said in the letter that it considered “the conclusion of a convention concerning an effective and comprehensive ban on chemical weapons as an already existing means of mass destruction a matter of urgent priority.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780490–0710)